"All The Things She Said" is nostalgia now, a.k.a. we are all old.
Jim Joyce made the right call at the end of Saturday night’s World Series Game 3, but that doesn’t mean he made the right call.
What you know already: under the letter of the law, Will Middlebrooks was guilty of obstruction on Allen Craig simply because Middlebrooks’ body existed in that place at that moment. Yet as Sam Miller pointed out for Baseball Prospectus, even the obstruction rule isn’t necessarily cut and dry: “If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.”
Was Middlebrooks continuing to lie on the ground or just completing the play? Did Middlebrooks “very likely” obstruct Craig’s progress to home plate, or did Craig’s progress get delayed because he ran into Middlebrooks in the first place? Was Craig’s progress delayed at all? Would he have scored anyway? Joyce’s answers to those questions decided a key World Series game.
Which, of course, is the issue. Joyce made a judgement call that affected the outcome of the game. By doing so, he made himself the star.
We’ve seen that before from umpires and we’ll see it again (the only people more arrogant than MLB umpires are Yankees fans), but it never ceases to amaze me. Joyce was barely even looking at the play, yet he was certain enough in his mind to decide a World Series game. That is some hubris of Francesaian levels.
After the play, Twitter broke into mostly predictable camps: Those who thought Joyce made the right call, and those who didn’t; those who thought the rule was dumb, if properly enforced, and those who thought the rule was dumb, and shouldn’t be enforced at all; those who just thought it was funny that something like this happened to the Red Sox (mostly bitter Yankees fans*), and those who thought it was a travesty. The debate over the call overshadowed everything that happened on the field, which is where, you know, the games are played and should be decided. Even a spring training game doesn’t deserve to end inside the mind of an umpire trying to interpret a carefully worded rule that reads like lawyer-speak. This isn’t “Inception.” Or maybe it is.
*I’m sure Yankees fans were on the 1996 equivalent of Twitter talking about following rules properly after the Jeffrey Maier home run. Definitely.
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